The Warriors thought they’d gotten one over on the rest of the NBA and, for a while, it appeared they had.
They went into the second round of the 2016 draft without a pick and came out with a versatile wing named Patrick McCaw.
The Warriors had McCaw for two seasons, and as a rookie, he showed considerable promise. Year 2 was uneven before a spinal injury sidelined him for the last two weeks of the regular season and all but six games of the postseason.
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McCaw is gone now, two days after signing a two-year, non-guaranteed $6 million offer sheet with the Cavaliers that the Warriors declined to match. After a holdout that baffled many -- including his Warriors teammates -- McCaw is off to Cleveland.
It stings for the Warriors to lose someone they wanted to keep. That McCaw wanted out makes it sting considerably less. That it would have cost the Warriors more than $14 million this season alone made declining the offer a foregone conclusion.
Still, the Warriors part ways with someone capable of sliding into the void created by the eventual departures of veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
McCaw was that dude. He arrived for Las Vegas Summer League broomstick-skinny but with the savvy and quiet confidence of a seven-year vet. The UNLV product was on familiar territory, putting on a show, averaging 15.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists over five games.
Golden State Warriors
That performance prompted Warriors coach Steve Kerr to issue the ultimate compliment for a second-round draft pick, that he was comfortable with McCaw playing meaningful minutes in an NBA game on opening night.
NBA legend Jerry West, then an advisor and executive boards member of the Warriors, went one step further.
“People are going to be sorry they didn’t draft him,” he said of McCaw.
The Milwaukee Bucks, with the 38th overall pick, drafted McCaw at the direction of the Warriors, who paid $2.4 million for his rights.
Paying $2.4 million for the rights of a 20-year-old who could be in the team's rotation as he spends a couple years being groomed for a bigger role is an NBA bargain. His presence was one reason the Warriors bought a second-round pick in 2017 to take a big man, Jordan Bell, despite having selected center Damian Jones eight picks ahead of McCaw in 2016.
The Warriors had identified McCaw as part of their future. That feeling lasted through his rookie season, which ended in a championship parade through the streets of Oakland, with Iguodala motioning toward McCaw and referring to the rookie as his eventual replacement.
Less than 10 months later, McCaw took a horrendous fall in Sacramento, sustaining a severe spinal injury. He recovered in time to make a brief appearance in the postseason.
Still, the Warriors visualized him as a part of their future.
McCaw no longer saw it that way, if he ever did.
He wants plenty of playing time, and he wants it now. That wasn’t going to happen on a team with All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant playing the perimeter positions.
McCaw likely realized that last spring, which might be why he was such a forlorn figure as the Warriors celebrated their championship in the visiting locker room at Quicken Loans Arena. His face was that of a man whose celebratory mood was bittersweet.
Now he’s no longer a Warrior. Keeping him was a good idea, at the right cost. But matching the Cleveland offer sheet made McCaw far too expensive for someone whose heart no longer was in Golden State.